The (drum) beat goes on

We witnessed the passing of the drums last weekend.

It was a momentous occasion and not just because they were passed down from the attic over the garage, although that was dramatic. I was instructed to remove the extension ladder that had gotten the husband into the attic once he stepped onto support beams.

Per instructions, I then moved a stepladder into place and climbed up with arms in catch position as he tried to force the bass drum through the attic opening. Meanwhile, grandsons smart enough to know a disaster in the making when they see it, positioned themselves to catch the drums if, when, and most likely, I lost my grip on the bass.

They intervened and were bearing the weight of the large drum before I could lose my grip. I choose to think they were more concerned about their grandmother than the drum, but I have no intention of giving them opportunity to confirm or deny that. Why ruin a happy thought?

The kids immediately set up the bass, snare, tom drum and cymbals in the family room. I’ve not seen that on HGTV, but maybe I can send them the idea.

The banging began immediately. It was deafening, but oddly comforting – a blast from the past.

The husband was a drummer. His ‘60s blue and silver Slingerland drum set was the major piece of furniture he brought to the marriage.

We raised a drummer. For years the roof shook, the windows rattled and the walls rolled. Our son practiced after school and every bone in my body wanted to run upstairs, fling open his door and scream, “STOP! JUST STOP!”

But we were paying for lessons. We paid someone big bucks for the kid to dismantle our nervous systems so he could play in a high school jazz band.

And orchestra. All the kids had to take orchestra.

Do you know what it’s like when your kid plays percussion in the orchestra? Your kid goes to practices and rehearsals, you clear the family calendar, you clean up, you drive to the school and you find a seat in the auditorium.

The curtain goes up and there’s your kid. He’s going to play the timpani, so he’s at the far back corner of the stage. You’re pretty sure that’s him but he’s far away and in the shadows so it’s hard to tell.

You sit there forever, waiting for the timpani. Then WHAM! He hits the timpani. WHAM! DA DA DA DA DA! WHAM!

Show over. Five seconds, max. Hundreds of dollars in lessons, thousands of dollars in Tylenol, five seconds of play.

And now the drum set that belonged to the husband and was used by our son passes to our son’s children.

We needed two vehicles to haul the kids and the drums home. We set them up and within seconds the roof shook, the windows rattled and the walls rolled. History really does repeat itself.

We declined an invitation to stay for dinner. We wanted to get going before our son and daughter-in-law had a chance to change their minds and tried to catch us.

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Most egg-cellent chick show of the season

The race is about to begin. First appearing is the crowd favorite, Grace, followed by Flapper, Goldilocks and Ella Mae. More flock in, but they’re crowding and bunching up at the back.

Chickens are like that.

Someone in the know, standing next to me, identifies the late entries as Unicorn, Mushroom, Shorty Long and Crocodile Eater. The names alone are worth the wait.

The chickens are gathering to run an obstacle course. The obstacles resemble jumps for horses, but on a small poultry scale and with PVC pipe instead of wood. Imagine a small Ninja Warrior course for chickens and you’re close.

The course was originally constructed, with the jumps set higher, for a black lab. Sadly, the dog disqualified himself by repeatedly and gleefully knocking down the obstacles instead of bounding over them.

Undaunted by failure, the trainer, who just turned 13, lowered the bar (literally) and took to training chickens.

Her lure for the chickens is a peeled banana. Who knew, right? Chickens like bananas. They like them so much they will run an obstacle course in hopes of winning teeny tiny bits of banana.

The race is about to start when yet another chicken crashes through the brush and bobs onto the course.

The crowd cheers and does the chicken dance as Nest in Lap joins the competition.

Silence falls, the trainer lowers the banana and the race begins. Competitors cast beady-eyed glares, shove, push and wing bump one another in an effort to hurdle, or hop, PVC pipes.

Shorty Long takes the lead, trailed by Mushroom and Flapper. They both take the first jump with the pipes on the ground. Halfway to the second jump, Mushroom surges ahead and delivers a beak blow to Shorty Long’s midsection. Shorty Long and Mushroom tussle. Feathers fly. Flapper seizes her moment, overtakes them both and clears the second jump.

Mushroom recovers (though hen-pecked), scuttles to the front and is now neck-in-neck with Flapper at the final and most difficult jump, which features a PVC pipe at the base of the jump and a second pipe suspended four inches above ground, resting on notches cut into two tree branches driven into the playing field. Make that laying field.

The crowd falls silent. Which one will have the hen-durance? Mushroom hops over pipe No. 1 and onto pipe No. 2.  She teeters, falters and hits the ground.

It looks like Flapper is about to seal the win when Ella Mae surges from the brood, her claws kicking bits of sod into the air. She delivers a wild wing (hold the Buffalo sauce) to Flapper who takes a fall. Ella Mae balances precariously atop pole No. 1, eyes on the prize. She steadies herself, takes a leap, goes airborne and clears the pipe suspended above ground.  Ella Mae has won the banana! The crowd goes wild!

Eight of Ella Mae’s closest hens, all void of sportsmanship like conduct, close in on her and the spoils. The trainer basks in the adoration of spectators and murmurs spread of Ella Mae going pro.

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Top-load washing machine needs caution-cycle

If you have a newer top-load washing machine, you know that it helps to have the height of an NBA player to reach in and retrieve the clothes.

You’re at a serious disadvantage if you’re on the short side. I can reach clothes in the bottom of our washing machine with the toes on my left foot still touching the ground, but barely, and I frequently bruise my rib cage.

On the upside, I’m now one inch taller than when we had a front-load washing machine. Even more impressive is that my right arm, the one I stretch to reach the wet clothes, now hangs one foot longer than my left arm.

I was at one of our daughter’s homes the other day when she told her youngest to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer. Their machine is a newer top-load also, but even bigger, with a deeper tub because they do a greater volume of laundry.

I watched carefully to see if she had a technique I could implement.

The first thing she did was kick a step stool to the front of the washer. I’d considered a step stool, but I also considered that my center of gravity could tilt, and I could fall into the machine and not be found until the next load of dirty clothes.

She gingerly jumped up on the stool (I don’t do anything gingerly anymore), hoisted herself up on the washing machine (I do still jump onto the countertops), balanced her midsection on the rim of the machine, teetered a bit, steadied herself, then went for it.

She dove headfirst. Her legs shot up at a perfect 45-degree angle. It was fantastic form and should probably be incorporated into a domestic Olympics: The Top-Load Washing Machine Deep Dive, the When-Your-Hands-Are-Full Refrigerator Door Kick and Speed Competition For Unloading The Dishwasher.

Five seconds later, she popped out of the machine cradling an enormous load of wet towels to her chest and grinning from ear to ear. I jumped to my feet, cheering, clapping and yelling, “Go for the Gold, sister! Go for the Gold!”

She dove in two more times and emptied the machine. The girl has moxie.

BBQ tongs and a grabber have failed me, but this child has given me hope. Sometimes you’re just so proud of your family, you could cry.

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Survival of the Fitbitest

This is the week I move to the top of the leader board in a Fitbit competition. This is exciting because when you are of a “certain age” others begin to count you out and there’s nothing like being counted in. Especially if the “in” is in first place.

As you probably know, a Fitbit is like an ankle monitor for your wrist. It doesn’t track the places you go—it tracks how many steps you take to get to the places you go.

This little high-tech watch has an algorithm that counts your steps based on motion patterns like swinging arms.

Sometimes I add steps to my daily count by swinging my arm to my mouth with pistachios. Talk about a win/win.

Four family members who compete with one another invited me to join their group—our youngest daughter and three grands 12, 12 and 10.  They consider 10,000 steps a day (about 5 miles) bare bones. I think they wanted me in the competition to boost their standings. And I did for awhile.

I lingered in last place because I would charge the Fitbit and forget to put it back on. Other times I forgot to update my step count in the app.

But now, like many Fitbit wearers, I am obsessed with counting steps. I’ve stepped up my game. Literally.

Whenever I run laundry upstairs, I make multiple trips, often running things up only a few at a time: his clothes that go in drawers, my clothes that go in drawers, his clothes than hang up, my clothes that hang and individual trips for towels and hand towels.

I moved into fourth place.

Then I began walking while talking on the phone—and emptying every trash can in the house multiple times a day whether they needed it or not.

I pulled into third.

I began walking a half mile to the corner drugstore to pick up miscellaneous items instead of driving. I extended my route on a trail I frequent and closed in on second.

I could taste victory. It smelled a lot like stinky tennis shoes.

With first place within reach, I started shopping only a few items at a time because Fitbit won’t track steps when you have both hands on a cart. Sometimes I’m in and out of the grocery so frequently that security follows me.

I was closing in on first place and hit a huge roadblock—one of the 12-year-olds started cross country with practice three times a week followed by a meet. We were all toast now. There would be no way to catch her.

And then it happened. I broke through. I outpaced the cross-country runner and took first place. I confess it wasn’t determination on my part as much as it was timing.

The kid was trapped in a car on a 12-hour trip with her family.

I hope she doesn’t ask if she can walk home.

The thrill of first place has been overshadowed by the realization that Fitbit controls my life. I may need rehab. Preferably a 10,000-step program.

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